By Jesse Bertel

An angel of the Lord appears to Leonard “Len” Tchernik and tells the retired father of three that God wants an enormous holiday lights display on his roof. By building it, Len will win divine favor and capture the true spirit of Christmas. But first, he must work a different miracle — getting along with his family.

“Lights,” written by Michael Grady and directed by Robyn Allen is set to premiere at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 7, at Prescott Center for the Arts, 208 N. Marina St., in the Cabaret Theater. Grady spoke with Across the Street ahead of the play’s premiere. The following interview was edited for length and clarity.

What was the inspiration for writing this play?

I wrote it back in the early 2000s when I was a feature reporter for the East Valley Tribune. I was the guy who regularly got the beat around the holiday season where you interviewed the folks who had the ostentatious lights display.

I was interviewing this guy who is a very closed off fellow and gave a lot of, you know, yes or no answers when you’re asking questions. I asked him why he would build this elaborate Christmas display on his roof and he was giving me answers, like, “Well, I don’t know. I do it every year.” Not exactly a quote machine.

So, I had a brief phone interview with him and I hung up and I thought, “Okay, I’m going to have to get a workable comment from somebody else.” Then my phone rings and it’s the same guy and he says, “My wife says I have to call you back and tell you the real reason I do the Christmas lights display.” He told me this wonderful story about how their neighbors had a daughter who died of leukemia. He promised her that every Christmas, he would put an elaborate light display on the roof so that she could see it from heaven. It was a jaw dropping story. It made me look at the folks who put themselves out for Christmas like this in a different way, because every one of those displays usually has a deep-seated tradition or a very personal story behind all the hard work.

What do you like most about the story?

I like the idea that, in a non-preachy way, it deals with elements of religious tolerance. The two strongest characters in the play have differing views on faith and creed, and yet they find a way to work it out.

I like that there’s a way to do that, to demonstrate that without getting preachy about it, just watching people behave.

The conflict between Len, that’s the father who get the gets the mission from God, and his daughter, Deborah, who is coming back after a kind of family exile, is really very interesting because it reaffirms the idea that even if you have different creeds, different faiths, different approaches to life, there’s a lot of common things we share.

For more information and to buy tickets, call 928-445-3286, or visit

Jesse Bertel is a reporter/videographer for the Prescott News Network. Follow him on Facebook @ JesseBertel, email him at, or call 928-445-3333, ext. 2043.

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